Making Men: Enlightenment Ideas of Racial Engineering

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2014-04-10 20:49Z by Steven

Making Men: Enlightenment Ideas of Racial Engineering

The American Historical Review
Volume 115, Issue 5 (December 2010)
pages 1364-1394
DOI: 10.1086/ahr.115.5.1364

William Max Nelson, Assistant Professor of History
University of Toronto

A minor nobleman from Alsace, traveling in French colonial Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) on the eve of the French and Haitian revolutions, expressed  surprise that “it has not already occurred to some ingenious speculator to monopolize … the fabrication of all mulattoes.”1 Perhaps no one had embarked upon this endeavor, the Baron de Wimpffen speculated, for fear that the metropolitan government would “take advantage of this bright idea to incorporate even the manufacture of the human race into its exclusive privilege.”2 While Wimpffen was clearly satirizing the Exclusif—the much-hated metropolitan monopoly on the trade and manufacture of natural resources and goods from the colonies—his comments reveal something that is not widely recognized about the eighteenth century: there was an understanding that the “fabrication” or “manufacture” of human beings was possible, and even desirable to some.3 Wimpffen’s words are jarring, not only because they raise the possibility that human beings could be manufactured, but also because they do so in an offhand manner, presenting it as a whimsical observation or a delicate joke rather than as a ghastly vision of control and production in which human beings are merely another raw material to be transformed. The topic of sexual relations between people of African and European descent was not an uncommon one in eighteenth-century writing about Saint-Domingue, where it was generally agreed that such unions were more prevalent than in other French colonies; Wimpffen’s comments, however, pointed beyond the usual tropes invoked against the social and moral ramifications of colonial métissage and libertinage (miscegenation and the debased pursuit of sensual pleasure).

Although some masters seem to have profited from the sale of their own mulatto children, Wimpffen was presumably correct in believing that there were no actual businesses on Saint-Domingue that aimed to monopolize “the manufacture of the human race.”4 A decade earlier, however, two men with connections to the colonial administration—former governor-general Gabriel de Bory and a lawyer named Michel-René Hilliard d’Auberteuil—had published works calling for a similar kind of “manufacture.” In Essai sur la population des colonies à sucre (1776) and Considérations sur l’état présent de la colonie française de Saint-Domingue (1776–1777), respectively, Bory and Hilliard d’Auberteuil sketched out separate plans for the large-scale selective breeding of slaves, free people of color, and the white residents of the island.5 Neither viewed his project as a potential business venture; instead, each plan was envisioned as a solution to some of the colony’s most significant social, political, and military problems. Their proposals were not highly detailed; nor were they even the focus of the books in which they were included. Yet they remain of great historical importance because they appear to have been the first suggestions for large-scale selective breeding of humans that was meant to be carried out in a real time and place (rather than the fictional nowhere of utopias) and with the intention of creating a new racial hierarchy.

The existence of these plans raises new questions regarding the relationship between the development of ideas about the selective breeding of human beings and the development of ideas of race. Throughout the second half of the eighteenth century in Europe and the Atlantic world, a fundamental idea was emerging of race as a heritable and inescapable way of being that encompassed physical, moral, intellectual, and psychological characteristics and provided a basis for hierarchical differentiation.6 There was a considerable amount of fluidity and ambiguity within the new ideas and nomenclature, but people were gradually establishing and stabilizing many of the terms, concepts, and scientific questions that would lay the foundation for the more elaborate attempt to create a science of race in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.7 Yet even as modern ideas of race were being formed, some people apparently believed that human beings could be constructed to fit within narrowly defined categories based primarily on skin color and civil status. The possibility of a dynamic circularity in the eighteenth century between making men and making race seems not to have been previously recognized by scholars.8

Read the entire article here.

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Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue: avec des observations générales sur la population, sur le caractère & les moeurs de ses divers habitans, sur son climat, sa culture, ses productions, son administration (Topographic description, physical, civil, and political history of the French part of the island Santo Domingo: with general observations on the population, on the character and manners of its various inhabitants, its climate, its culture, production, administration)

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy on 2013-10-10 02:27Z by Steven

Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue: avec des observations générales sur la population, sur le caractère & les moeurs de ses divers habitans, sur son climat, sa culture, ses productions, son administration  (Topographic description, physical, civil, and political history of the French part of the island Santo Domingo: with general observations on the population, on the character and manners of its various inhabitants, its climate, its culture, production, administration.)

Chez l’auteu
1797-1798
2 volumes : 2 ill., maps (engravings) ; 26 cm. (4to)
856 pages

M. L. E. Moreau de Saint-Méry (Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry) (1750-1819)

From The John Carter Brown Library: The mixing of races in Saint Domingue occasioned a plethora of commentaries, mostly venomous and polemical, on the causes and consequences of the colony’s multiracial order. The most famous of these commentaries, though not the most polemical, was by Moreau de Saint-Méry, the colonial jurist and historian whose writings on Saint-Domingue are still a major resource for contemporary scholars. In volume one of his Description, Moreau counted and categorized 11 racial combinations in the colony. He argued that ancestry should be traced back seven generations and hence ultimately comprised 128 combinations. The “science” of skin color received one of its earliest formulations in this work, completed in 1789. Moreau was himself the father of a mixed-race child by his mulatto mistress.

Read the entire book here.

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Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Monographs on 2012-04-27 18:56Z by Steven

Blue Coat or Powdered Wig: Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

University of Georgia Press
March 2001
344 pages
6.125 x 9.25
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8203-3029-7

Stewart R. King, Associate Professor of History
Mount Angel Seminary, St. Benedict, Oregon

By the late 1700s, half the free population of Saint Domingue was black. The French Caribbean colony offered a high degree of social, economic, and physical mobility to free people of color. Covering the period 1776-1791, this study offers the most comprehensive portrait to date of Saint Domingue’s free black elites on the eve of the colony’s transformation into the republic of Haiti.

Stewart R. King identifies two distinctive groups that shared Saint Domingue’s free black upper stratum, one consisting of planters and merchants and the other of members of the army and police forces. With the aid of individual and family case studies, King documents how the two groups used different strategies to pursue the common goal of economic and social advancement. Among other aspects, King looks at the rural or urban bases of these groups’ networks, their relationships with whites and free blacks of lesser means, and their attitudes toward the acquisition, use, and sale of land, slaves, and other property.

King’s main source is the notarial archives of Saint Domingue, whose holdings offer an especially rich glimpse of free black elite life. Because elites were keenly aware of how a bureaucratic paper trail could help cement their status, the archives divulge a wealth of details on personal and public matters.

Blue Coat or Powdered Wig is a vivid portrayal of race relations far from the European centers of colonial power, where the interactions of free blacks and whites were governed as much by practicalities and shared concerns as by the law.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Part One. The Colony and Its People
    • Chapter One. The Notarial Record and Free Coloreds
    • Chapter Two. The Land
    • Chapter Three. The People
    • Chapter Four. Free Colored in the Colonial Armed Forces
  • Part Two. The Free Colored in Society and the Economy
    • Chapter Five. Slaveholding Practices
    • Chapter Six. Landholding Practices
    • Chapter Seven. Entrepreneurship
    • Chapter Eight. Non-Economic Components of Social Status
    • Chapter Nine. Family Relationships and Social Advancement
  • Part Three. Group Strategies for Economic and Social Advancement
    • Chapter Ten. Planter Elites
    • Chapter Eleven. The Military Leadership Group
    • Chapter Twelve. Conclusion
  • Appendix One. Family Tree of the Laportes of Limonade
  • Appendix Two. Surnames
  • Appendix Three. Incorporation Papers of the Grasserie Marie Josephe
  • Appendix Four. Notarized Sale Contract for a House
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index
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Science of desire: Race and representations of the Haitian revolution in the Atlantic world, 1790-1865

Posted in Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery on 2012-04-15 16:09Z by Steven

Science of desire: Race and representations of the Haitian revolution in the Atlantic world, 1790-1865

University of Notre Dame
July 2008
489 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3436234
ISBN: 9781124353197

Marlene Leydy Daut, Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies
Claremont Graduate University

A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Notre Dame in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

This dissertation reads representations of the Haitian Revolution with and against the popular historical understanding of the events as the result of the influence of enlightenment philosophy or the Declaration of the Rights of Man on Toussaint L’Ouverture; or what I have called a “literacy narrative.” This understanding is most visible in texts such as C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins (1938) and reproduces the idea that Toussaint read Raynal’s Histoire des deux Indes (1772) and thus became aware that slavery was contrary to nature and was inspired to lead the revolt. Instead, I show how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century understandings of the Revolution were most often mediated through the discourse of scientific debates about racial miscegenation–an eighteenth- and nineteenth-century obsession with what happens when white people produce children with black people–making the Revolution the result of the desire for vengeance on the part of miscegenated figures, whose fathers refused to recognize or defend them, rather than a desire for the ideals of liberty and equality; or what I have called the “mulatto vengeance narrative.”

Chapter one examines the figure of the “tropical temptress” in the anonymously published epistolary romance La Mulâtre comme il y a beaucoup de blanches (1803). Chapter two takes a look at “evil/degenerate mulattoes” in Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno” (1855) and Victor Hugo’s Bug-Jargal (1826). In chapter three I analyze the trope of the “tragic mulatto/a” in French abolitionist Alphonse de Lamartine’s verse drama Toussaint L’Ouverture (1850); the Louisiana born Victor Séjour’s short story, “The Mulatto” (1837); and Haitian author Eméric Bergeaud’s Stella (1859). Chapters four and five look at the image of the “inspired mulatto” in French novelist Alexandre Dumas’s adventure novel, Georges (1843); black American writer William Wells Brown’s abolitionist speech turned pamphlet, “St. Domingo; its Revolutions and its Patriots” (1854); and the Haitian poet and dramatist Pierre Faubert’s play, Ogé; ou le préjugé de couleur (1841; 1856). By insisting on a discourse of science as a way to understand these representations, I show how these texts contributed to the pervasive after-life of the Haitian Revolution in the nineteenth-century Atlantic World, on the one hand, but also created an entire vocabulary of desire with respect to miscegenation, revolution, and slavery, on the other.

CONTENTS

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
    • Part 1: Mulatto Vengeance and the Haitian Revolution
    • Part 2: Literacy Narratives and the Haitian Revolution
    • Part 3: Notes on Terminology
  • Chapter 1: Tropical Temptresses: Desire and Repulsion in Revolutionary Saint-Domingue
    • Part 1: The Color of Virtue
    • Part 2: Colonialism and Despotism
    • Part 3: Desire and Abolition
  • Chapter 2: Black Son, White Father: Mulatto Vengeance and the Haitian Revolution in Victor Hugo’s Bug-Jargal and Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno”
    • Part 1: Victor Hugo’s Parricide
    • Part 2: Melville’s “Usher of the Golden-Rod”
  • Chapter 3: Between the Family and the Nation: Parricide and the Tragic Mulatto/a in 19th-century Fictions of the Haitian Revolution
    • Part 1: Séjour’s Oedipal Curse
    • Part 2: Toussaint’s Children
    • Part 3: Bergeaud’s Romantic Vision
  • Chapter 4: The “Inspired Mulatto:” Enlightenment and Color Prejudice in the African Diaspoa
    • Part 1: Alexandre Dumas and the Haitian Revolution
    • Part 2: Economics and Civilization
    • Part 3: The “Never-to-be-forgiven course of the mulattoes”
  • Chapter 5: “Let Us Be Humane After the Victory:” Pierre Faubert’s New Humanism
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited

Purchase the dissertation here.

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Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery on 2012-04-04 23:23Z by Steven

Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue

Palgrave Macmillan
June 2006
408 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4039-7140-1, ISBN10: 1-4039-7140-4
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-230-10837-0, ISBN10: 0-230-10837-7

John D. Garrigus, Associate Professor of History
University of Texas, Arlington

 

Winner of the Society for French Historical Studies 2007 Gilbert Chinard Prize!

In 1804 French Saint-Domingue became the independent nation of Haiti after the only successful slave uprising in world history. When the Haitian Revolution broke out, the colony was home to the largest and wealthiest free population of African descent in the New World. Before Haiti explains the origins of this free colored class, exposes the ways its members both supported and challenged slavery, and examines how they created their own New World identity in the years from 1760 to 1804.

Table of Contents

  • The Development of Creole Society on the Colonial Frontier
  • Race and Class in Creole Society: Saint-Domingue in the 1760s
  • Freedom, Slavery, and the French Colonial State
  • Reform and Revolt after the Seven Years’ War
  • Citizenship and Racism in the New Republic Sphere
  • The Rising Economic Power of Free People of Color in the 1780s
  • Proving Free Colored Virtue
  • Free People of Color in the Southern Peninsula and the Origins of the Haitain Revolution
  • Revolution and Republicanism in Aquin Parish
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Inventing the Creole Citizen: Race, Sexuality and the Colonial Order in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Media Archive on 2012-03-01 01:21Z by Steven

Inventing the Creole Citizen: Race, Sexuality and the Colonial Order in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue

Stony Brook University
December 2008
335 pages

Yvonne Eileen Fabella

A Dissertation Presented The Graduate School in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History

Inventing the Creole Citizen examines the battle over racial hierarchy in Saint Domingue (colonial Haiti) prior to the French and Haitian Revolutions. It argues that cultural definitions of citizenship were central to that struggle. White elite colonists, when faced with the social mobility of “free people of color,” deployed purportedly egalitarian French enlightenment tropes of meritocracy, reason, natural law, and civic virtue to create an image of the colonial “citizen” that was bounded by race. The purpose of the “creole citizen” figure was twofold: to defend white privilege within the colony, and to justify greater local legislative power to French officials.

Meanwhile, Saint Domingue’s diverse populations of free and enslaved people of color, as well as non-elite whites, articulated their own definitions of race and citizenship, often exposing the fluidity of those categories in daily life. Throughout the dissertation I argue that colonial residents understood race and citizenship in gendered ways, drawing on popular French critiques of aristocratic gender disorder to contest the civic virtue of other racial groups.

To put these competing voices in conversation with one another, the dissertation is structured around a series of practices through which colonial residents fought over the racial order. Those practices include participation in local print culture, the consumption and display of luxury goods, interracial marriage and sex, and the administration of corporal punishments. French legal structures and cultural traditions were imported directly to the colony, strongly influencing each of these practices. However, I examine how these practices changed—or were perceived to change—in the colonial setting, and how colonial residents used them to negotiate local power relations.

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Free People of Color and the “Stain” of Slavery
    • Manumission and Early Administrative Opposition to the Free People of Color
    • The Social Mobility of the Gens de Couleur of Saint Domingue
    • The Gens de Couleur and the Threat of Slave Resistance
    • Legislating Hierarchy and Enforcing Respect
    • The 1780’s: Rethinking the Role of the Gens de Couleur
    • Holding Fast to White Privilege: Local Resistance
  • Chapter Two: Inventing the Creole Citizen
    • The Political Context: Moreau and the Desire for Legal Autonomy
    • Climate Theory and Creole Degeneration
    • Taste, Immorality and the Creolization of Culture
    • Defining the Creole Citizen
  • Chapter Three: Creolizing the Enlightenment: Print Culture and the Limits of Colonial Citizenship
    • A Tropical Public Sphere
    • Colonial Print Culture
    • The French Affiches
    • The Affiches Américaines and the Imagined Community of Colonial Citizens
    • Printing the Racial Order
    • Contesting the Racial Order
  • Chapter Four: “Rule the Universe With the Power of Your Charms”: Marriage, Sexuality and the Creation of Creole Citizens
    • Official Encouragement of Marriage in the Early Colonial Period
    • Marital Law and Mésalliance in France and Saint Domingue
    • Colonial Mésalliance
    • Concubinage and Miscegenation
    • Regulating Interracial Marriage and Miscegenation
    • Affectionate Colonial Marriage, Populationism and Colonial Citizenship
    • Gens de Couleur, Affectionate Marriage, and Familial Virtue
  • Chapter Five: Legislating Fashion and Negotiating Creole Taste: Discourses and Practices of Luxury Consumption
    • Fashion and Luxury Consumption in Old Regime France
    • Colonial Luxury Consumption and Its Critics
    • Coding Colonial Luxury Consumption
      • I. Creole Slave Consumption: Colonial Meritocracy and Enslaved Savagery
      • II. The Gens de Couleur and Luxury Consumption: Emasculation and Sexual Immorality
      • III. White Creole Fashion: Transparency and Civic Virtue
    • Colonial Women, Fashion and Resistance
  • Chapter Six: Spectacles of Violence: Race, Class and Punishment in the Old Regime and the New World
    • Old Regime Punishments in the New World
    • White Elite Violence, Respectability, and Gendered Colonial Reform
    • Punishing the Insolence of Gens de Couleur
    • The Insolent Mulâtresse
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Introduction

In the years before the outbreak of the French and Haitian Revolutions, two men would criss-cross the Atlantic, traveling between the slave colony of Saint Domingue and the European power that governed it, France. Both men were defined as “creole,” that is, born in the Antilles. One, the white colonial magistrate Moreau de Saint Méry, came from another French colony, Martinique, although he and his family resided in Saint Domingue. The other, Julien Raimond, was a wealthy, educated, planter of color who had been born and lived most of his life in Saint Domingue. During the early years of the revolutions, these two men would debate the boundaries of French citizenship in the colonies; Raimond argued for the extension of citizenship rights to wealthy free men of color, while Moreau wanted to limit those rights to whites. Yet this debate began even earlier, before French revolutionaries created the legal category of “citizen” in 1789, and it took place on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the 1780’s, before the “citizen” became a person invested with civil and political rights in the nation, these men, and people in France and Saint Domingue in general, defined the term more ambiguously. Yet metropolitans and colonists generally agreed that a “citizen” was someone with civic virtue—a person who placed the greater good above his or her own self-interest. However, civic virtue appeared incompatible with the greed and immorality that Europeans typically associated with colonial life. In other words, according to the conventional wisdom in Europe, creoles could not be citizens. Separately, Moreau and Raimond would try to convince France’s Colonial Ministry otherwise, although they made very different arguments. Theirs were just two of the voices contributing to the contested category of “creole citizenship,” if two of the most powerful. This dissertation explains how the residents of Saint Domingue—white, black, and “mixed;” free and enslaved; men and women—fought to define that category in Saint Domingue’s courtrooms, plantations and markets, as well as in print in both the colony and the metropole

…Colonists used this emerging bourgeois gender discourse to articulate ideas about race and citizenship and assert their own vision of the colonial racial order. Administrators and white elites drew heavily on gendered imagery in their attempts to denigrate the gens de couleur, and that imagery was also strongly sexualized. They consistently portrayed the gens de couleur, and particularly “mixed” women, as the most debauched members of colonial society. Such rhetoric resonated with colonial whites for a number of reasons, but especially due to the growing free population of color. By 1789, gens de couleur were almost as numerous as whites. Administrators and colonists understood this group to be problematic because of its seemingly liminal state: in a society in which whiteness was supposed to connote freedom and blackness slavery, free people of color blurred the clear-cut boundaries desired by metropolitan and colonial officials. Over the course of the eighteenth century, women of color shouldered the blame for the growth of this group. Portrayed as both coldly calculating and sexually insatiable, women of color were said to lure white men into inter-racial sexual relationships in order to improve their own economic or legal status.

Administrators and visitors to the colony, as well as colonists complained about the pervasiveness of such relationships, which resulted in ever-growing numbers of “mixed” children. In practice, some women and their children acquired benefits from these sexual relationships. When the mother of such a child was enslaved, both she and her child might gain their freedom as a result of their relationship to the white man. On rare occasions, white men married women of color, ensuring that their children could be legitimate heirs of the man’s property. Otherwise, white men sometimes provided for their sexual partners and children in other ways, giving them gifts of property or providing living allowances, for example. Of course, many more women and children remained enslaved or economically neglected by the men. Furthermore, while some of these arrangements were in fact voluntary or even orchestrated by the women, in other instances white men forced themselves on enslaved and free women of color, whose reputations as seductresses—and their vulnerable legal status—rendered them almost defenseless. Yet in the eyes of administrators and white elites, women of color were to blame for seemingly high rates of interracial sex as well as the occasional marriage between white men and women of color. They lamented that such relationships contributed not only to the dangerous growth but also the social mobility of the free population of color. And as importantly, some white elites claimed, they discouraged white men from marrying white women, thereby preventing the growth of a native white population.

Having framed the “problem” of the gens de couleur as the product of illicit sexual unions between white men and women of color, white colonists and administrators easily drew on gendered, sexualized imagery circulating in France in order to explain the phenomenon. John Garrigus has argued that descriptions of free women of color rendered by white colonists often resembled those of courtiers’ mistresses at Versailles, commonly demonized as over sexualized, domineering, emasculating, and exercising a dangerous degree of influence over powerful men. Coupled with depictions of debauched free men of color, such imagery produced a feminized stereotype of the free people of color, thereby justifying their exclusion from the newly emerging colonial public sphere. Similarly, Doris Garraway has demonstrated that free women of color, particularly the mulâtresse, simultaneously represented white male “sexual hegemony” and the symbolic danger inherent in miscegenation: a blurring of the color line…

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Race, Reproduction and Family Romance in Moreau de Saint-Mery’s Description. ..de la partie francaise de l’isle Saint Domingue

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2011-11-08 04:41Z by Steven

Race, Reproduction and Family Romance in Moreau de Saint-Mery’s Description. ..de la partie francaise de l’isle Saint Domingue

Eighteenth-Century Studies
Volume 38, Number 2, Winter 2005
pages 227-246
DOI: 10.1353/ecs.2005.0008

Doris Lorraine Garraway, Associate Professor of French
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

This paper analyzes the colonial jurist and historian Moreau de Saint-Méry’s racial classification system with an aim to disclose its ideology of family romance and reproduction. By examining the sexual allegory implicit in the tabular demonstration of métissage, I argue that Moreau’s racial science represents a sexual fantasy for white colonials whose libertine practices threatened the fragile demographic balance of colonial society. Moreau de Saint-Méry revises Enlightenment ideas about racial degeneration and infertility to arrive at an original hypothesis for the biological reproduction of colonial humanity, one that places the control of such procreation squarely in the hands of white men.

The publication in 1797 of the colonial jurist and historian Médéric-Louis-Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Description topographique, physique, civile, politique et historique de la partie française de l’isle Saint-Domingue represented a milestone in Enlightenment racial theory. Within the first volume of the encyclopedic account of the colony on the eve of the Haitian Revolution, there appeared a systematic classification of human variety in the colonies, unprecedented in its scope and detail. Expanding on previous taxonomies of De Pauw and Hilliard d’Auberteuil, and borrowing from eighteenth-century innovations in algebra and statistics, Moreau devised an exhaustive tabular, arithmetic and narrative typology of “nuances of the skin” along a continuum between white and black. Comprising nearly twenty pages, this attempt to delineate and classify human color variation in the colony of Saint-Domingue represented much more than an experiment in Enlightenment rationality or the science of amalgamation. By meticulously theorizing the genealogical progression between black and white, Moreau de Saint-Méry fixated on the one difference that carried political consequences in Saint-Domingue—that between white and non-white, or “sang-mêlé” (mixed-blood).

In the decades leading up to the Haitian Revolution, whites faced increasing challenges to their economic and political supremacy from the growing class of free people of color. As established slaveholders, planters, entrepreneurs, skilled laborers, artisans, and military leaders, they had acquired considerable wealth and property in land and slaves. As such, they aspired to the same political recognition and elite titles and offices held by whites. While mulatto activists such as Julien Raymond traveled to Paris to petition the royal government on behalf of free people of color, those at home sought to improve their position by building social networks, sending their children to be educated in France, adhering to French moral codes regarding marriage and legitimacy, and, in some cases, marrying their daughters to white men. The social ambitions of free people of color did little to quell the long-standing controversy over the prevalence of interracial sexual relationships in Saint-Domingue. In addition to engaging in sexual relations with slave women, elite white men frequently sought free women of color to serve as ménagères, their live-in housekeepers and lovers. In the late eighteenth century, colonial writers sensationalized mulatto women as icons of sensual pleasure and sexual excess, figures both loved and blamed for the luxury, indebtedness and moral laxity of the colony. Yet this stereotype concealed the fact that free women of color were among the most entrepreneurial and financially independent women in the colony, owing to their connections to white benefactors and their prevalence in urban marketing and commerce. While interracial marriage was never officially outlawed in the colony, the colonial leadership made many attempts to suppress the practice and in the end settled for a series of punitive measures against “misallied” white men. More difficult to control, however, was the massive increase in the population of free people of color in the last decades of French rule. In the two decades prior to the revolution, their numbers increased at nearly twice the rate of whites in the same period, such that by 1789 each population amounted to approximately 30,000 persons.

Faced with the population increase, social ambition, wealth and political demands of free people of color, the white elite responded with an extraordinarily oppressive regime of racially exclusionary laws intended to halt their advancement. Free people of color were forbidden to wear luxurious clothing, take the name of a white person, carry arms, practice certain professions and hold public office. By 1785, Moreau de Saint-Méry had become a leading figure of colonial jurisprudence. Born in 1750 to the white Creole elite of Martinique, Moreau had risen through the ranks of the magistrature to become a counselor on the Superior Court in Cap-Français, Saint-Domingue, and premier historian of colonial law. He was also a prominent figure of the colonial Enlightenment, holding memberships in the colonial Chamber of Agriculture and the Cercle des Philadelphes, later named the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences. This organization made Cap-Français a center of scientific debate, comparable in its time to Philadelphia and Boston. Moreau’s rise in the colonies was concomitant with his growing notoriety on the French political and cultural scene. In the 1780s, he took a leading role in the pre-revolutionary assemblies in Paris as a spokesperson for the colonial elite, arguing polemically against mulatto rights and the proposals of the Société des Amis des noirs. His address of May 12, 1791 provoked Robespierre’s famous speech calling for the end of the colonies should they compromise revolutionary principles…

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The French colonial question and the disintegration of white supremacy in the Colony of Saint Domingue, 1789-1792

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, Slavery on 2011-11-08 02:44Z by Steven

The French colonial question and the disintegration of white supremacy in the Colony of Saint Domingue, 1789-1792

The University of North Carolina, Wilmington
2005
94 pages

Molly M. Herrmann

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

This thesis argues that the class of free people of color in the French colony of Saint Domingue threatened the dichotomy of master and slave, as defined by a strict divide between white and black and as was necessary for the perseverance of racial slavery. In restricting the free people of color from the right to vote and hold public office, white supremacy was maintained by upholding a racial divide within the free sector of Saint Domingue’s planter society. By the end of the eighteenth-century, the free people of color launched an aggressive campaign, by way of French legislative reform, to attain their rights as free and propertied citizens of France.

The perception that the white race was unalterably superior to the black race was at the core of the planter society of Saint Domingue to safeguard racial slavery against a rapidly emerging class of free people of color. Once the free people of color seized upon French legislative reform as a means to win their rights, white supremacy was challenged and ultimately exposed as a social and political system that was alterable. The subsequent failure of French legislation to officially enfranchise them motivated the free people of color to openly ally with insurgent slaves in a revolution against a common adversary, white supremacy. The result of this coalescence, I argue, was the rapid and complete debilitation of white power in the colony by April 1792 when the National Assembly declared full and equal citizenship for all free people of color.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • ABSTRACT
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
  • DEDICATION
  • INTRODUCTION
  • CHAPTER 1. RACIAL SLAVERY AND THE COLOR LINE DRAWN BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK
  • CHAPTER 2. THE “IMPRINT OF SLAVERY” AND THE FREE PEOPLE OF COLOR IN SAINT DOMINGUE
  • CHAPTER 3. THE FRENCH COLONIAL QUESTION AND THE SLAVE INSURRECTION OF 1791
  • CHAPTER 4. THE ABOLITION OF THE COLOR LINE AND THE END OF WHITE SUPREMACY IN SAINT DOMINGUE
  • EPILOGUE
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY

Read the entire thesis here.

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Redrawing the Color Line: Gender and the Social Construction of Race in Pre-Revolutionary Haiti

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science on 2011-11-07 22:12Z by Steven

Redrawing the Color Line: Gender and the Social Construction of Race in Pre-Revolutionary Haiti

Journal of Caribbean History
Volume 30, Numbers 1 & 2 (1996)
pages 28-50

John D. Garrigus, Associate Professor of History
University of Texas, Austin

This article examines the social and political construction of race in French colonial Saint-Domingue. After 1763 white elites redefined the category “free coloured” using negative images of femininity rooted in French political discourse. This engendering of racial stereotypes solidified a racial hierarchy that whites found alarmingly fluid. Planters’ councils and the governors they opposed evoked images of sexually powerful women and effeminized men to explain colonial despotism and disorder. In the late 1780s, however, free men of colour deliberately asserted their civic virtue and virility, challenging these stereotypes and eventually destroying the colonial racial hierarchy.

By 1789 French Saint Domingue was home to the largest, wealthiest, and most self-confident free population of African descent in the Americas. Comprising close to half the colony’s free population, these gens de couleur won civil equality with whites from the French Legislative Assembly in April 1792 and their political demands helped produce the Haitian Revolution. Why did such an extraordinary population emerge in this colony?

This article contends that the size, wealth, and self-confidence of this group were partly the result of new social and legal definitions of race formulated in Saint-Domingue after 1763. As this frontier society became the centerpiece of the French empire after the Seven Years’ War, prejudice established a deep and apparently permanent gulf between “whites” and “people of colour.” This new legal and social discrimination was deeply influenced by politicized French gender stereotypes, which whites used to reinforce a new, biological conception of racial difference. Old colonial families were relabeled gens de couleur. After 1769 whites considered free people of mixed African/European descent to be not merely “between” whites and blacks, but morally and physically inferior to both races. This exaggeration of the difference between white and brown colonists reinforced the ambiguous category “free people of colour” and served as an effective target during the French Revolution for wealthy “mulattos” and “quadroons” eager to claim full citizenship.

At the heart of the new racism were conflicts over Saint-Domingue’s political and cultural identity. After the Seven Years’ War new immigration from Europe and the increasingly “civilized” tone of elite colonial society raised the question of how “French” Saint-Domingue could become. Could a slave plantation colony produce a civic-minded public of the sort said to be emerging in France at this time? Many colonial planters, magistrates, and merchants wanted to believe it could. These elites appropriated metropolitan political discourse to explain why free Dominguan society differed from France. After the Seven Years’ War they began to describe free men and women of colour as passionate, narcissistic, and parasitic, terms used in France to vilify powerful women at court. This redirected and highly politicised misogyny helped solidify the ambiguous category gens de couleur, placing these families and individuals firmly outside respectable colonial society. The new image of people of mixed ancestry answered troubling questions about white behaviour in Saint-Domingue and seemed to guarantee that an orderly, rational colonial public could emerge. Grafting a stereotyped effeminacy onto emerging biological notions of race legitimised the disenfranchising of free people of colour, some of whom were indistinguishable from “whites” in wealth, education, distance from slavery, even physical appearance. In Saint-Domingue’s rough-and-tumble seventeenth-century buccaneer society, race was not the obsession it would later become. Early censuses did not distinguish between “whites” and “mulattoes,” but between free and enslaved residents. Before the massive importation of slaves for sugar work, children of mixed African/European descent were apparently considered free from birth. Even in 1685, the metropolitan authors of France’s slave law, the Code Noir, were more concerned about sin than race and racial mixture. The Code ordered colonial officials to confiscate mixed-race children and slave concubines from their owners, but stated that if a master married his slave mistress, she would be automatically free, as would the children of their union. Under the original terms of the Code Noir, ex-slaves enjoyed all the rights of French subjects…

For example, as he charted the somatic varieties produced by different combinations of African and European “blood,” Moreau also described distinct moral qualities. Blacks were strong and passionate while whites were graceful and intelligent. Therefore, mulattoes, who were one-half black, were stronger than quarterons, who were only one-quarter African. According to Moreau, African appetites for physical pleasure were especially pronounced when combined with white qualities. Mulattoes lived for sexual gratification, and the offspring of a mulatto and a black had a “temperament impossible to contain.”

Convinced that black women had strong psychological and physical inclinations to be mothers, Moreau believed that mulatto and quadroon women had difficulty giving birth, due to their physical and moral deficiencies. Men of mixed descent were similarly flawed. Mulattos were often intelligent and attractive, but they were lazy, beardless, foppish, and sensual, according to Moreau. Nor did free coloured military service challenge this image:

It seems that then [in the ranks a mulatto] loses his laziness, but all the world knows that a soldier’s life, in the leisure it provides, has attractions for indolent men … A mulatto soldier will appear exactly to the calls of day, perhaps even to those of the evening, but it is in vain that one tries to restrict his liberty at night; [the night|] belongs to pleasure and he will not indenture it, no matter what commitments he has made elsewhere…

Read the entire article here.

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New Christians/’New Whites’: Sephardic Jews, Free People of Color, and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue, 1760-1789

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Chapter, History, Media Archive, Religion on 2011-11-05 01:56Z by Steven

New Christians/’New Whites’: Sephardic Jews, Free People of Color, and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue, 1760-1789

Chapter (pages 314-332) in: The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West, 1450-1800
Berghahn Books
2001
592 pages
Pb ISBN 978-1-57181-430-2; Hb ISBN 978-1-57181-153-0

Edited by: Paolo Bernardini and Norman Fiering

Chapter Author:

John D. Garrigus, Associate Professor of History
University of Texas, Austin

The case of Saint-Domingue’s Sephardim illustrates that the story of Jews in Europe’s expansion westward is about more than the survival or mutation of deeply rooted family traditions. Old World questions about Jewish political identity did not disappear in the Americas. Rather, these persistent issues forced colonists and their children born in the New World to reconcile European philosophies with American conditions. In the case of the largest slave colony in the Caribbean, Saint-Domingue’s Jews helped translate emerging French nationalism into an attack on racial prejudice that eventually produced the Haitian revolution. By raising complex issues of national identity and citizenship in French America after 1763, Sephardic merchants and planters provided a model for another group whose place in colonial society was equally ambiguous: Saint-Domingue’s free people of color.

In the mid-1780s, the self-proclaimed leaders of the colony’s “mulattos” adopted many of the techniques that colonial Jews used to fight for legal rights. Their challenge to a racial hierarchy that had only recently acquired full legitimacy threatened the ideological basis of plantation society. By 1791 political and military struggles between colonial “whites” and “mulattos” had become so vicious that a great slave rebellion was possible.

The civil positions of colonial Jews and free people of mixed European and African parentage were parallel because elites in France began to construct new definitions of French citizenship in the mid-eighteenth century. In Paris and elsewhere, Jansenist judges and Protestant leaders pushed royal administrators to recognize that property, loyalty, and civic utility, not orthodox Catholicism, defined French identity. At the same time, royal bureaucrats eager to open France to wealthy families born outside its borders began to free these influential immigrants from traditional legal disabilities. By 1789, therefore, the continuum of rights and disabilities separating non-French residents and native-born subjects of the French monarchy was increasingly simplified into two mutually exclusive categories: citizen and foreigner…

Read the entire chapter here.

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